Home Politics Obama’s New Directive Probably Assures the Irreversibility of Normalization With Cuba

Obama’s New Directive Probably Assures the Irreversibility of Normalization With Cuba

6 min read

With just under 100 days remaining in office, President Obama has launched a final offensive to assure that his administration’s effort to normalize relations with Cuba will outlast his presidency and be recorded as one of the most dramatic breakthroughs in the annals of US foreign policy. With great fanfare, on October 14 Obama issued a comprehensive directive as well as new regulations to further normalize relations and nullify key aspects of the 55-year-old economic embargo that, to date, the Republican-controlled Congress has refused to lift. Most importantly, the new presidential directive mandates positive engagement, as opposed to perpetual hostility, as the modus operandi of future US policy toward Cuba.1

“This new directive consolidates and builds upon the changes we’ve already made, promotes transparency by being clear about our policy and intentions, and encourages further engagement between our countries and our people,” said Obama as he summed up his purpose in a White House press release. His directive, the president noted, takes a “whole-of-government approach to promote engagement with the Cuban government and people, and make our opening to Cuba irreversible.”2

An Irreversible Policy Shift

Since Obama and Raúl Castro announced a breakthrough in relations on December 17, 2014, the reversibility of Washington’s rapprochement with Havana has been the central question. Could political, commercial, and cultural bridges between the United States and Cuba be constructed—and firmly reinforced—so that the process of normalization could withstand current and future enemies of reconciliation?3

Donald Trump is one such enemy. In September, he turned Obama’s Cuba policy into a campaign issue by threatening to roll back the advance in relations. “The next president can reverse them,” Trump declared to a largely Cuban-American audience in Miami, “and that is what I will do unless the Castro regime meets our demands.” Via Twitter last week, Trump reiterated that he would “reverse Obama’s executive orders and concessions toward Cuba until freedoms are restored.”4

Described by US officials as “the manual” for US government agencies to institutionalize a policy of engagement, the new Presidential Policy Directive will make it harder for the next president to reverse course. Titled “United States-Cuba Normalization,” the 12-page directive—referred to officially as “PPD-43”—describes “priority objectives for normalization” and “directs actions required to implement this PPD” for all government agencies to follow in the future. 5

The directive includes a report card on the considerable success of reconciliation efforts in less than two years: 6

We have re-established diplomatic relations and have made progress toward the normalization of our bilateral relationship. We opened our respective embassies, six U.S. cabinet secretaries visited Havana, four Cuban ministers visited the United States, and I became the first sitting U.S. President to visit Cuba since 1928. We established a Bilateral Commission to prioritize areas of engagement, and we concluded non-binding arrangements on environmental protection, marine sanctuaries, public health and biomedical research, agriculture, counternarcotics, trade and travel security, civil aviation, direct transportation of mail, and hydrography. We launched dialogues or discussions on law enforcement cooperation, regulatory issues, economic issues, claims, and internet and telecommunications policy.7

Load More Related Articles
Load More In Politics

Leave a Reply